Yesterday, Congressman Edward Markey conducted a briefing for members of the health care and health research communities on the debt ceiling discussions and the possible impact on these sectors going forward. Although the Super Committee has received a significant amount of the attention, the debt discussions will actually occur in three steps.
The first step will include a cut of $900 billion. These cuts must be effective on 10/1/2011. Medicare and Medicaid cannot be included in this first cut, but all other federal spending including defense and non defense can be considered.
Step 2 is the Super Committee, comprised of six Senators and Representatives. The budget target for this Committee is $1.2 trillion. Their work must be done by Sept 23rd and if recommendations are made, must be voted on by Dec 23rd. The bring a proposal forward will require 7 or the 12 votes. In Senate, a simple majority vote will be needed to pass.
According to Markey, this group “will go from 0 to 60 miles per hour” to meet the September 23 deadline and for this group “everything is on the table.” This group has broad latitude to propose changes in benefits or program design in terms of federal entitlements, including Medicare and Medicaid benefits and program design; eligibility and contributions to Social Security; defense spending, tax rates, “loopholes” and contributions, etc. Markey indicated that all of the Republican appointees have pledged to support no new revenues, which will make this Committee’s work more difficult.
Should the Super Committee not reach consensus, the process will move to Step 3, which would be a an automatic cut on 10/1/13 of $1.2 trillion in spending, 50% of which would come from “security” and 50% from non security spending. Under this scenario, the sole restriction is that Medicare cuts would be set at 2%.
Congressman Markey engaged the group in discussing:
What is you message to the Super Committee?
What would you recommend that Super Committee members do if there are no revenues and only cuts to achieve the goal? Is moving to Step 3 preferable to this scenario?
Is a Step 3, i.e. 2% cut in Medicare in Oct 2013 sustainable?
Question to Home Care: What is your message to Congress on this?